Extensive thought has been given to what I am about to write. I have been challenged by a particular Scripture. After much study, I have more questions than I do answers. But I decided to post my dilemma in the hopes that one or more of you may have some revelation. "...In a multitude of counselors there is safety." (Proverbs 24:6 - KJ)
How often have you read or heard 2 Chronicles 7:14? "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." Frequently, I am sure. Yet have you looked at the context of this verse? Solomon had just successfully finished building the Lord's temple. He asked that the Lord come to His resting place at the temple. The Lord appeared to him and said, "I have heard your prayer and chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices. When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people..." (2 Chronicles 7:12-13 - NIV) The King James version says, "If I shut up heaven," and NLT says, "At times I might shut up heaven."
Knowing what is going on in our world today (droughts, locusts and plagues) I began to wonder if these things were sent by the Lord. The crucifixion of Jesus on the Cross was a gift from God to cover our sins. I know God as compassionate, loving, merciful and altogether wonderful. Would He send such a destruction and death to the earth? I also know Him as completely pure and holy, worthy of worship. He is a jealous God, wanting our affections and honor. How do we reconcile these characteristics?
We are battling a pandemic in the world called Coronavirus or COVID-19. It is overwhelming the medical community, affecting the economy and changing our lives. Though medical scientists are rushing to find a vaccine to stop the virus it maybe too little too late. I read about a church in France where 15 people came to know the Lord because of their fear of death. Could this virus come from Him in order to bring many to salvation? Is this what we need to humble ourselves and call out to God for mercy?
In the midst of all the chaos, I wonder: Does God still send plagues? Other Old Testament Scriptures sound somewhat like 2 Chronicles 7:13 including 2 Chronicles 6:26-31, Deuteronomy 11:17-18, Ezekiel 14:19-21, Amos 4:7. Wise King Solomon wrote, "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people." (Proverbs 14:34) The United States is a nation in sin. Chuck Smith calls it a national sickness caused by forgetfulness, neglect and rejection. We are guilty of idolatry, sexual immorality, killing the unborn and neglecting the Lord’s Day. Are we being disciplined by God? Has He reached the end of His patience with us? Is He using instruments of judgment talked about in Jeremiah 14:12 (sword, famine and plague) to redirect our course?
If we look back in the history of our nation we find that in the summer of 1623 there was a severe drought in Plymouth, MA--so severe that the native Indians had never seen anything like it. The settlers called for an assembly of all of the people. They humbled themselves together before the Lord with fasting and prayer according to Edward Winslow's book The Light and the Glory. For one day they stopped all work and gathered to acknowledge God and repent of their sins. Before the day was over the rain clouds blew in and it began to rain. The rains lasted for 14 days.
Sometimes we need to look back in history to chart our course for the future. Past presidents, including George Washington in 1789, John Adams in 1799, and Abraham Lincoln in 1863, called for national days of fasting and prayer to ask for repentance for past transgressions and mercy from God. Here is my conclusion. It does not matter where Coronavirus came from. It does matter how we respond! The future of our nation is at stake. Thankfully, our president has seen the need to call our nation to prayer. He said, "It is my great honor to declare Sunday, March 15, as a National Day of Prayer. We are a Country that, throughout our history, has looked to God for protection and strength in times like these...No matter where you may be, I encourage you to turn towards prayer in an act of faith. Together, we will easily PREVAIL!" The Church must lead the way in this call to prayer. Let us get on our knees and call out to God for mercy and revival. May I also suggest that you read Psalm 91 aloud every day.
In his books and devotionals, Rabbi Jonathan Cahn enlightens us about the times and seasons and patterns of life in ancient Israel. He studies these patterns because they are a harbinger for the United States. We, like Israel, were established as a godly nation, and God judges both of us in a certain way.
The Lord's desire is for us to have relationship with Him and to live lives that reflect His nature. He chose one man to form a nation to represent Him. "For I have chosen him (Abraham), so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just…” (Genesis 18:19) As the children of Israel were being led to the Promised Land, God told them, "For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples of the face of the earth to be His people, His treasured possession. The Lord did not set His affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other people, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath, He swore to your forefathers that He brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commands.” (Deuteronomy 7:6-9)
Reading through Scripture, we learn that the children of Israel frequently broke covenant with God and strayed from His commands. He always warned them of the consequences of their disobedience. Then He gave them a time period of grace in which He held back the full force of His judgment and wrath. If the nation did not return to a godly way of living during the grace period, God's judgment fell. Rabbi Jonathan's January 2020 devotional tells the story of Israel's northern kingdom and how God warned them to return to Him and follow His ways. The nation did not take the warning seriously and used up their grace period without changing. God lifted His hand of protection from over them and allowed the Assyrians to destroy them.
After looking at different times in the Bible when God extended grace to the children of Israel, Jonathan has discerned that God's period of grace for America may be ending in the year 2020. Our spiritual and moral decline is noticeable and flies in the face of the nation's Judeo-Christian foundation. Jonathan points out that the year 2020 is the 400th year since the Mayflower journeyed to the shores of America and the pilgrims made a covenant with God. 400 is a number of significance in the Bible where situations for Israel changed.
Jonathan also points out the significance of the number 19 in the Bible. In the year 605 B.C. the Babylonian army invaded the kingdom of Judah to make their first strike—a limited one—against them. Nineteen years later (586 B.C.) when nothing changed, the Babylonians returned in full force and destroyed Judah. (Jeremiah 52:12) On September 11, 2020, it will be 19 years since the terrorist attack on the twin towers.
Could this be the year when our nation will see calamity and destruction? Or, could this be a year when revival will hit? As we begin the year 2020, I believe it is our obligation to pray for a national turning to our Godly roots. Let us pray that God will revive each of us and that we will be part of a company of Christians leading the people of America back to our Judeo-Christian foundation.
Yearly, on Christmas Day in Washington Crossing, PA, the story of George Washington and his troops crossing the Delaware River to march to Trenton is re-enacted. The Continental Army attacked the Hessian garrison on Christmas in 1776. They overcame freezing rain, snow, ferocious winds, an ice-choked river and a long, cold march to Trenton to win the battle against the Hessians. The victory helped to bolster the sagging morale of the army so that they continued to fight the British and their allies.
One year later, the troops were in Valley Forge from December 1777 to June 1778. When they arrived, the cold and hungry troops built log huts to live in during the months to come. There is a legend that one of the soldiers at the Valley Forge encampment was a Jew who encouraged George Washington. Author Stephen Krensky was so inspired by this story that he wrote a book called Hanukkah at Valley Forge. Interestingly, in the year 1777, the first night of Hanukkah fell on Christmas Eve. The story is told that the lone Jewish soldier waited until the other soldiers were sleeping before he set up his Menorah. He lit the first candle and wept. As he was walking around the huts, George Washington saw the soldier and stopped to ask him why he was crying.
The Jewish soldier explained that he was crying out to God for the success of the troops. He had experienced persecution in his hometown in Europe and came to American to escape from it. He assured Washington that he would be victorious in his campaign because God is on the side of the righteous, just as He was with the small band of men led by the Maccabees who overtook the large Greek army. It was God who granted them a miraculous victory because of their faith in Him. This story served as an inspiration for Washington to move forward against the British. Doesn't this sound like the fulfillment of Isaiah 49:6? "I will make you a light for the Gentiles that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth."
The legend continues that the same Jewish soldier was at home in the Bronx in New York a year later. On the first night of Hanukkah, the veteran placed a Menorah in his windowsill with one candle lit. After hearing a knock at the door, he opened it to find George Washington on his front step. Washington said to him, "There is that fabulous light, the Hanukkah light! That flame and your remarkable words kindled a light in my heart on that dark and bitter night. We were in a tight situation then, and your words encouraged me so! They spurred me on with new hope. You will soon be awarded a Medal of Honor from the United States of America for your bravery in Valley Forge, but tonight you will receive a personal memento from me." The General then placed a gold medal on the table. Engraved on it was a Menorah with one candle burning. These words were inscribed on it: "As a sign of thanks for the light of your candle. George Washington."
Here we have the Jewish vet reminding Washington of the faithfulness of God. The size of the army coming against these small bands of soldiers was not important. What was and is important is the abilities of our God and His delight in helping us. Scripture talks about quite a few battles where the armies of the Israelites were so much smaller than the armies of their enemies. One example is when the Assyrian army came against King Hezekiah and his people. Here is what he told them: "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him. There is greater power with us than with him." (2 Chronicles 32:7)
Tonight, Jews all over the world will be lighting the final candle on their Menorah and will remember the faithfulness of God and His miraculous power to help them re-take the temple in Jerusalem. There will always be forces of evil who attempt to defeat and discourage the people of God. But here is the truth from John 1:5. "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." Our Lord still fights for us when evil attacks. Be confident in the Lord's faithfulness and His miraculous power on our behalf.
Last year I placed a large pumpkin on the ground by my front door. After only two weeks the bottom of that pumpkin rotted. My husband attempted to pick it up and carry it to the dumpster in our community. Bad idea!! The bottom fell out of the pumpkin and rancid, smelly liquid and moldy seeds poured out all over the sidewalk. It took us a long time to clean up the mess. The rotten smell remained for quite some time even though we poured boiling water on the residue. Knowing that God always has spiritual lessons for me from natural experiences, I asked Him what I could learn from this event. This is what I heard: "That is how the demonic realm works. It weakens the foundation and transforms the soul into a smelly mess. Then it impacts everything it touches." So true!
Everything that is established on the earth has a foundation. Frequently we think of a foundation in conjunction with a building. It is the first layer of a structure that provides a stable base for the rest of it. In Matthew 7:24-25 Jesus says His words that are put into practice are like a wise man who built his house on a rock foundation (bedrock). His house would not be shaken because its foundation is on the rock. Scripture tells us that the earth rests on a foundation. The power of the Lord is revealed in Psalm 18:15 and 2 Samuel 22:16. He exposed the foundations of the earth with a "blast of breath from His nostrils." According to Psalm 104:5, "He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved."
As Christians, we have a foundation in the Lord, as stated in 1 Corinthians 3:11. "For No one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ." We also are building on a foundation that has been established through those in the faith who have gone before us. "...You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus as the chief cornerstone." (Ephesians 2:19-20)
Our nation was built on a foundation of Christian principles. But what has happened to us? What are the ramifications of a crumbling foundation? What is built on top of a crumbling foundation also crumbles. Foundations are laid with great care. They must be plumb and sturdy. Our forefathers, when writing the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, used the Bible as a model in writing them. They knew that if we built upon the bedrock of Scripture we could not be shaken, and we would prosper. Here is what the Lord told the people of Israel: "Walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess." (Deuteronomy 5:33)
It is essential that Christians only build upon the foundation of the truth of God's Word. Otherwise, we will be pulled into the ways of evil and impact the world around us in a negative way. It is my belief that the soul of our nation is soiled and sick because we are not building upon our original foundations. As individuals, we are warned by the apostle Paul to put on "the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes we may be able to stand our ground..." (Ephesians 6:13)
1 Thessalonians 5:22-23 is an admonition to all of us. "Avoid every kind of evil. May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." How do we do this? Stay on the foundation that was laid for us by the Lord. "See I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a pure foundation. The one who trusts will never be dismayed." (Isaiah 28:16)
In his book, An Appeal to Heaven, Dutch Sheets writes about synergy and calls it "multiplication of power through combined effort." Synergy operates in both the physical and spiritual realms. By following God's decrees and obeying His commands, the Israelites could experience this multiplication. Here is what the Lord told them: “Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall by the sword before you." (Leviticus 26:8) God desires for the generations to connect with one another (Psalm 78:4-6 and 145:4) and promises to bless unity (Psalm 133). Dutch encourages us to put ourselves "into the story line God is writing" because this "allows us to tap into the strength and life of what He did years ago." It is critical for us to connect with our past to find our future.
As we can read in Scripture, God partnered with the children of Israel to help them establish a godly nation that honored Him. He told Moses, “I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the Lord, will do for you." (Exodus 34:10) I believe that God partnered with our founding fathers as He did with Israel. The intent of the pilgrims was to establish a country "for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith." (Mayflower Compact, 1620) It was His delight to bless those who first came to American with a godly vision.
On July 4 we will celebrate Independence Day--a day that came about because of the courage of our forefathers to take on the British to battle for freedom. General George Washington, commander of the troops during the American Revolution, spoke about our dependence on the Lord for success in the fight for independence.
The battle for our nation still rages, but it now comes from within. As Dutch says, "The dream of our forefathers "to partner with God to release the light of His Word to all nations" has been perverted by our cravings for "money, possessions and pleasure...We are no longer feeding on the dream; the dream is feeding on us...Giants in our land--abortion, violence, racism, numerous addictions and sexual perversions--all are strongholds ruling and destroying America...Many of our leaders now deny America's true history and oppose her Creator."
You may ask, "Is there hope for our nation?" I believe that there is if the Christians of this nation would band together in unity, agreeing in prayer and connecting and building on the foundation of previous generations. In his book, Dutch asks us to join in an appeal to heaven and to take our place in the synergy of the ages. He encourages us with these words: "If we return to a faith that God and His redeeming power are bigger than our weaknesses and failures, we will defeat the over-fed giants of our day. If we can believe that through the blood of Jesus, God's mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13), and that He who began a good work in us can finish it (Philippians 1:6), we'll prevail...If we return to covenant with the God of our fathers, embracing the destiny He planned for us, Olam (Everlasting God) will deliver us from the spiritual giants robbing us of our calling and inheritance."
Dutch admonishes us: "Never discount the power of God's redeeming love." The transformation of our nation will come as we obey God's Word in 2 Chronicles 7:14. “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear them from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."
"In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?" (Psalm 56:4) It is this Scripture and many others in the Bible that may have inspired a Baptist minister from Ridleyville, PA, named Rev. Mark Watkinson, to write a letter to the Treasury Secretary in 1861. He urged the Secretary to recognize "The Almighty God in some form on our coins." This set into motion a move in the U. S. Congress during President Lincoln's administration to place the motto on two cent pieces. The coins with this motto were approved in 1864. In 1956, the 8th Congress passed legislation that the phrase "In God We Trust" must appear on American currency. President Dwight Eisenhower approved it. The same Congress also unanimously passed a law declaring that this phrase should be the United States national motto.
Is it not our acknowledgement of and dependence on God that sets apart America from all other nations? The writers of the Declaration of Independence gave God glory for the establishment of our nation in which we have the freedom to pursue "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” They also acknowledged that the unalienable rights of men were given "by their Creator." Yet, there are those in our country who desire to eradicate every reminder of our Judeo-Christian roots.
Recently, Satanist Kenneth Mayle challenged the constitutionality of the phrase "In God We Trust" on our U. S. currency. His contention is that he is being forced to spread the message of Christianity and that his First Amendment rights and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) are being violated. Judge Diane Wood of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago decided that Mayle's rights as a non-monotheistic believer were not violated, and that the motto "In God We Trust" is "one of many historical reminders" that should not be perceived "as a religious endorsement."
Other challenges to the motto came before this one. In 1970 there was an unsuccessful attempt to take "In God We Trust" off of our currency. The District Court said, in part, that the motto has "spiritual and psychological value and inspirational quality." Even though an appeal was filed with the Supreme Court, they declined to hear the case. Another challenge occurred from 2006 to 2010 but never got traction. A case filed in 2013 was also defeated.
Although America is characterized by a diversity of religious beliefs and practices, there is no doubt that our founding fathers were primarily God-fearing people who intended that this nation honor God and follow His laws. In the year 2006, the 50th anniversary of the adoption of "In God We Trust" as the national motto, the Senate reaffirmed the resolution. Five years later, the House of Representatives did the same thing.
As we begin our week of celebrating Independence Day, how should we respond to what is happening in our country? While it is true that there is a remnant that is crying out to God for revival to come to our nation, the Church has been somewhat ineffective in the past in leading the way to placing God back on the throne of our land. We must demonstrate the truth of our national motto, "In God We Trust," by living a life worthy of His sacrifice and carrying His light wherever we go.
Let the inspirational words of our United States Anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner, written by Francis Scott Key in 1814, inspire us. It is the 4th stanza that contains the declaration of our trust in the Almighty God:
"Oh, thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: 'In God is our Trust.'
And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!"
My heart was stirred over the weekend as I spent time at the Voice of the Prophets with over 1,000 people who are hungry for revival. This Global Awakening event brought us several speakers, including Shawn Smith, a traveling evangelist, equipper and revivalist. He confirmed what I believe is the heart of God to bring another Great Awakening to our churches and our nation. He opened the subject of uncapping the wells of revival through Genesis 26. This is the story of Abraham digging wells in a place called Gerar. Wells are dug to supply life-giving water, to place a claim on the land, and to bless the next generation. After Abraham's death, his son Isaac came to the land of his inheritance to find that the wells had been blocked. He went about unblocking them to re-establish the flow of water.
My excitement grew at Shawn's word because the wells of revival have already been dug at my own church. We believe that our inheritance is one of revival for several reasons: Renown revivalists from the Great Awakenings traveled to our area and dug wells of revival. It was revivalist John Wesley who established the Methodist Church. Our Methodist Church (The Crossing) tasted revival in 1994 when the Spirit of God fell in power. Our prayer is, "Do it again Lord. We want to see the flow of Your Spirit unleashed again." Shawn taught us about how to break open the wells of revival:
On July 4th I had the privilege of going to the Johnson Ferry House at Washington Crossing State Park in New Jersey. The curator of that house planned special events in honor of our country's Independence Day. Outside of the Ferry House, raspberry ice cream was being made the way it would have been made in colonial days. As we stood outside, the sound of patriotic melodies with beautiful harmonies came wafting towards us and drew us inside. Several musicians and singers dressed in period costumes greeted us. We were invited to join them in song.
Singing all of the verses of the patriotic hymns moved me emotionally as I contemplated the words that describe the founding of the United States of America. Each song that we sang recognized that God is the one who has blessed us and confirmed that our forefathers truly established our nation on a godly foundation. Most of us would be familiar with the first verse of the songs we sang but not the subsequent ones. I want to record the powerful words of some of the lesser known verses of three of these songs.
America the Beautiful by Katharine Lee Bates (1859 - 1929)
Katharine Bates wrote about the message of her hymn: "We must match the greatness of our country with the goodness of personal godly living. If only we could couple the daring of the Pilgrims with the moral teachings of Moses, we would have something in this country that no one could ever take from us." I am particularly fond of the third verse of her hymn:
"O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife, who more than self their country loved and mercy more than life! America! America! May God thy gold refine, till all success be nobleness, and every gain divine."
Battle Hymn of the Republic by Julia Ward Howe (1819 - 1910)
Julia Howe wrote this hymn in the midst of the Civil War. It inspired the entire nation when it went public. The third and fourth verses speak of God's plans and the birth of Christ as our Savior:
"He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat. He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat. O be swift, my soul, to answer Him; be jubilant, my feet! Our God is marching on." Refrain: "Glory! Glory! Hallelujah" (3 times) "His truth is marching on."
"In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea, with a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me. As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free! While God is marching on.” Refrain: (See above.)
The Star Spangled Banner by Frances Scott Key (1779 - 1843)
It was during the War of 1812, while on the deck of a ship, that Frances Scott Key wrote what was to become our national anthem in 1931. Rarely do we sing the second verse, but I believe it is noteworthy:
"O thus be it ever, when free men shall stand between their loved homes and the war's desolation! Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation! Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just; and this be our motto: 'In God is our trust!' And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!"
Psalm 33:12 says, "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He chose for His inheritance." The authors of the above hymns understood this. We must add the Amen!k here to edit.
The National Prayer Breakfast is the brainchild of Abraham Vereide, a Methodist minister who immigrated to the United States from Norway. He, along with his friend Senator Frank Carlson and Billy Graham, saw the Breakfast as an opportunity to nurture Christian leaders in our country. After presenting the idea to then President Dwight Eisenhower, they got the green light. Eisenhower recognized that this would be a positive influence on our country.
Invitations were sent to leaders in the United States and in other countries. In part, the invitations said, "This is a time to seek the Lord's guidance and strength...and to renew the dedication of our Nation and ourselves to God's purposes." The first Prayer Breakfast was held in 1953 and has been held on the first Thursday in February ever since.
The 65th National Prayer Breakfast took place last week and can be viewed on You Tube. I found it so encouraging and inspirational! About 3,500 people gathered to be led in singing and prayer and to listen to several speakers. The keynote speaker was the Chaplain from the United States Senate, Dr. Barry Black. His address was stellar! As I listened to it I felt hope for the revival of our country rising within me and a sense of excitement over God's plans for our future.
Joel Rosenberg, Founder of the Joshua Fund, communications strategist, best-selling author and international speaker, was one of the attendees at the Breakfast. Here is what he said about Dr. Black's address: "It is one of the most powerful, most compelling, most winsome and moving presentations of the Gospel of Jesus Christ I have ever heard delivered. We all urgently need to hear and respond to the message the Chaplain preached so passionately to us."
Dr. Black encouraged his listeners to pray, calling upon the name of the Lord Jesus in three different ways.
The Chaplain made it clear that this nation will not prosper unless our faith is built upon the foundation of the Lord Jesus Christ. His impassioned presentation of Edward Mote's hymn, The Solid Rock, stirred everyone who heard it. "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus' name. On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand--all other ground is sinking sand; all other ground is sinking sand." I praise the Lord for the bold proclamation made by this man of God. He left no doubt in anyone's mind of the course this nation must take in order to prosper. It is vital that we pray in agreement with him.
"Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever." Praise and thanks are consistently linked together in Scripture. They are somewhat similar and yet unique. When we give thanks we are expressing gratitude and appreciation. When we praise we are expressing admiration and approval. As we celebrate our annual day of gratitude (called Thanksgiving) here in the United States I want to look at the results of adding praise to our thanks.
1 Chronicles 16:4 and 23:28-30 tell us that King David appointed Levites to give thanks and praise to the Lord every morning and evening. Hezekiah also assigned priests and Levites to "give thanks and to sing praises..." (2 Chronicles 20:21) Nehemiah set up singers at the gates of the wall around Jerusalem to sing "songs of praise and thanksgiving to God." (Nehemiah 12:4) Psalm 100:4 tells us that we are to "Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise."
A Psalm that has been significant in my life is Psalm 71. Several of the verses describe my experience with the Lord. (Verses 5 & 6) "For you have been my hope, O Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth. From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother's womb. I will ever praise you." (Verses 14-16) "But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteousness, of your salvation all day long, though I know not its measure. I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, O Sovereign Lord, I will proclaim your righteousness, yours alone." (Verse 18) "Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come." (Verses 23-24) "My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you—I, whom you have redeemed. My tongue will tell of your righteous acts all day long for those who wanted to harm me have been put to shame."
Let's look at Psalm 71, Verse 14, in the Young's Literal Translation. It attempts to translate, literally, each word and phrase from the original language. Verse 14 is translated like this: "But I will continually wait with hope and will add to all your praise." When we look at this entire Psalm, it is apparent that the Psalmist has experienced distress in his life, and yet there is something inside of him that leads him to wait with hope and add to his praise of the Lord.
Verse 15 and 16 show us how to start the process of having hope and of increasing praise. It is when we declare His righteousness and salvation and proclaim His mighty acts. It has been my experience that no matter how difficult life is I can always find a multitude of reasons to praise Him and give Him thanks. He has shown me His strength and wisdom and love again and again. He has confirmed that He is near, even in the dark night of the soul.
One of the devotional books that has blessed me is written by Kevin Geoffrey. His book is called Messianic Daily Devotional. An entry in his book is written about Psalm 71:14-16. Here is what he says about hope and praise: "We do not endure by simply crying out to God--anyone can do that, and they often do. The difference lies in having the fortitude to praise God even in the worst circumstances...and to keep adding to that praise...The key is to let praise build hope, and then to respond to the hope we have by praising Him some more."
When you are thanking God this week, add praise to it. Then add to your praise and watch as your hope builds. May God bless you and your loved ones abundantly.
Joan E. Mathias